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So what explains "Fear Factor"?

Donald Luskin has been covering a spat lately in which liberals accuse conservatives of distorting the truth regarding the date when the most recent economic recession began. The underlying issue, of course, is whether to blame Bill Clinton or George Bush; as such, it's a debate mostly of interest to flag wavers on the campaign trail.

So what to make of gratuitous comments like this, from the New York Times' Arts section, on the occasion of "Friends" ending its ten year run:

But timing was also an important factor in the show's success. The best sitcoms echo the larger mood of the nation. "M*A*S*H," whose finale in 1983 drew the largest audience for a single episode of a television series, provided gallows humor in the gallows era of Vietnam and Watergate. "Friends" came along after the Reagan-Bush recession of the late 1980's and early 90's, a period that had fostered shows like "Married . . . With Children," "Roseanne" and "The Simpsons," caustic comedy centered around dysfunctional, financially strapped, families.
Emphasis added.

The Reagan-Bush recession? Huh? Reagan, of course, had been out of office for several years when the recession of the early 1990s happened. What makes this so egregious is that not only is the statement wrong, but it's so totally unnecessary; the sentence would have been just as clear if "Reagan-Bush" had been omitted. The Times just can't help itself from having its partisanship leak from the editorial pages into news sections, can it?

(I thought for a moment that perhaps this was common terminology that I had just missed, but a quick Google turned up just 43 hits on the phrase -- all, as far as I can tell, from partisan sources. Which, at least in theory, the Television column in the Arts section should not be.)

Incidentally, "Married... with Children" started in 1987, "Rosanne" started in 1988, and "The Simpsons" started in 1989. The "Reagan [sic]-Bush recession" started after all of those did, in July 1990, so I'm not sure what that leaves of the theory that the recession is what led to these shows. I suppose technically the reporter could say that article isn't wrong because it said that the recession "fostered" these shows -- that is, she could argue that the shows started before the recession but were only successful because of it. The problem is that this too is wrong; Roseanne was the number two-rated show for two seasons before the recession began.

Hmmm... maybe the TV columnist should stick to TV, and stop playing pop sociologist.


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